Thursday, April 22, 2010

Intimate Partner Rape

By Lisa A M Bauman

Not all forms of rape were illegal in all states until 1993. Currently, permissive attitudes towards rape are still being justified by individuals, lawmakers, judges, lawyers, and even victims themselves. The reasoning used to justify this permissive attitude is based on stereotypical ideals about gender roles that suppress the rights of females, and specifically female victims of rape. Although Spousal and Intimate Partner Rape (IPR) is formally illegal in the US today, there are still many states that have weak responses to this new realization. Some states have made it so incredibly difficult to report such incidents that Spousal and Intimate Partner Rape can be considered to be essentially legal. Historical stereotypes continue to cause the unethical justification in an astounding number of unreported and unacknowledged sexual violence within intimate relationships in America today.

This report will define Intimate Partner Rape, give a history of the legal and societal attitudes towards the issue, and show the commonality of the crime. It will explain current responses that states have made to illegalize the crime, give the current justifications for permitting it, and explain the hurdles that victims must face when reporting it. It will explain how victims are affected by the crime and the limitations victims experience in recovery of it. Finally, this report will show that more needs to be done to make Intimate Partner Rape illegal by changing current attitudes and stereotypes about women in America and reflecting this change in our laws and the interpretations of them.

Defining Intimate Partner Rape
Intimate Partner Rape has several names. It has been called Spousal Rape, Marriage Rape, and Wife Rape. It is the term used to describe sexual acts committed without a person's consent by an intimate partner, spouse, or ex-spouse. Rape can occur through physical force, threats of force on the victim or on a third person such as a child or a friend. There is no requirement for a victim to physically fight the perpetrator. When a person submits to sexual acts out of fear or coercion, it is also considered rape (Mahoney).

Matthew Hale
Legal History Of Intimate Partner Rape: Rape is Legal Until 1993
Before the late 1970's it was completely legal to rape a spouse in the United States. Before then, criminal codes typically included a “Marital Rape exemption,” or provision barring prosecution for the rape of one’s spouse. Such laws reflected views that only stranger rape constituted “real rape” or that sex was a “wifely duty.” This thinking was articulated by Matthew Hale, Chief Justice in England in the 17th century, who wrote: “The husband cannot be guilty of rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto the husband which she cannot retract ("Marital Rape")."

Illegalization of Intimate Partner Rape
In the 1970s and 1980s, numerous states adopted laws criminalizing Spousal Rape. It was not until 1993 that all forms of rape were illegal in every state. States took three approaches to criminalizing Marital Rape: exemption removal, crime distinction, and special language ("Marital Rape" and "Spousal Rape Laws").

The most common approach states took was to eliminate the spousal rape exemption by removing the language it provided without adding any other language. Still, in many states, there is no legal language to protect victims who are married to the offender ("Spousal Rape Laws"). Now, only seventeen states and the District of Columbia have completely abolished the Marital Rape exemption (Mahoney). Marital privileges range from precluding offenses which involve sexual acts other than penetration such as sexual battery, and the use of drugs to impair the victims ability to resist ("Spousal Rape Laws"). These marital privileges are even extended to unmarried cohabitants in some states (Mahoney).

Seven states retained their exemption in the code, but have created a separate offense of "Spousal Rape" that often gives lesser penalties and provisions than for other forms of rape ("Marital Rape" & "Spousal Rape Laws"). In West Virginia, spousal sexual assault is defined, but the perpetrator must use forcible compulsion or a deadly weapon or inflict serious bodily injury for it to be recognized. This is considered a felony, punishable by imprisonment for two to ten years, but the same acts against a person who is not married to the perpetrator can result in a sentence of ten to thirty-five years ("Spousal Rape Laws").

In addition to crime distinction, some states add extra limitations and requirements on victims when reporting the crime such as a shorter deadline than is offered for victims of rape who are not married to the offender. States have made it harder to prove Spousal Rape than other forms of rape by requiring a showing that force or threats were used when other laws against rape require only a showing of lack of consent. Other states do not criminalize the conduct if the wife is legally unable to consent due to a severe disability ("Marital Rape").

The most effective method has been the special language approach. In an effort to combat bias interpretation of law due to historical beliefs holding that there is a "sexual contract" in marriage, a few states have amended their laws to specify that marriage is not a defense to certain crimes. For example, North Carolina amended one law to read: "A person may be prosecuted under this Article whether or not the victim is the person's legal spouse at the time of the commission of the alleged rape or sexual offense." This approach makes it clear that sexual offenses by spouses should be treated the same as sexual assault by others ("Spousal Rape Laws").

Gauging Intimate Partner Rape in Society
The amount of Intimate Partner Rapes that occur is a difficult thing to gauge. It is common for a victim to report suffering years of abuse before seeking help. Many occurrences are never reported. In a interview with Linda Anderson, licensed Psychologist and Coordinator of Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) for Oregon State University (OSU), she commented on victims' reporting habits. "Most sexual violence is perpetuated by someone the survivor knows and sometimes cares about. I would think it's a lot more than we know about ... it's pretty common, but people don't label it or recognize it."

"Looking at statistics, ... one in three college students experience rape that occurred with someone they were dating. That's a lot." says Anderson. According to a survey reported by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), almost 133,000 women were the victims of rape or attempted rape each year between 1987 and 1991. Fifty-five percent of the reported rapes occurred by someone the victim knew and only forty-five percent were committed by strangers ("Domestic Violence Fact Sheet").

Sexual violence may also be linked with domestic violence in relationships. "When a person expresses to me that they have been abused, I also ask them to think about the sexual component. Rape is about domination. If domestic violence is occurring, it is likely that sexual violence is occurring as well." says Anderson. This link between IPR and domestic violence can offer a better picture of the overall scope of the problem. Domestic violence and sexual assault crimes make up one-third or more of all reported violent crime in Oregon alone. At least one in ten women between the ages of twenty and fifty-five have been physically or sexually assaulted by a current or former intimate partner. ("Domestic Violence Statistics,").

Damaged Trust
Victims of Intimate Partner Rape suffer long lasting physical and psychological injuries as severe or more severe than Stranger Rape victims. Victims raped by a partner are violated by someone with whom they share their lives, homes, and possibly children. In addition to the violation of their bodies, they are faced with a betrayal of trust and intimacy (Mahoney). Anderson said that her "clinical impression is that being harmed by someone you know is damaging to an extra level of trust. Rape by strangers creates fear of strangers. Rape of someone close ... it effects trust."

Social and Personal DenialVictim denial is encouraged by popular gender role ideals and even formal religious teachings. It is only in the last thirty years that the law has begun to offer wives protection from a husband's sexual attacks. Many people are still unaware that this form of rape is a crime. Women victims often believe it is part of their "wifely duty" to have sex with their husbands (Mahoney). Some call this a "marriage sex contract." This ideal of a sexual contract existing in marriage causes the victim to be unable to see sexual attacks, physical harm, or force as a crime if it involves sex between a wife and a husband. In response to how stereotypes affect the healing process of Intimate Partner Rape, Anderson said "Cultural stereotypes and expectations are the core of what people struggle with in healing. It's even harder [for the survivor] to recognize that it wasn't consensual." Anderson goes on to say that "In my clinical experience, I would imagine denial is the number one reason survivors do not report the crime."

This complex situation causes most victims to have special difficulty recovering emotionally from experiencing this form of culturally excepted, highly intimate form of rape ("Marital Rape"). In addition to the victim's denial, society is in its own denial. IPR victims are not afforded the ability to recover since society is telling them that either it did not occur or it was their fault. Stereotypes about women and sex such as: "women enjoy forced sex," "women say ‘no’ when they really mean ‘yes,’" or "it's a wife's duty to have sex" continue to be reinforced in our culture through both mainstream and media, religious leaders, and law makers. Such messages not only mislead men into believing that they should ignore a woman's protests. They also mislead women into believing that they must have "sent the wrong signals," blaming themselves for unwanted sexual encounters, or believing that they are "bad wives" for not enjoying sex against their will (Mahoney). "There are all kinds of myths in society that blame the victim." Anderson said. " This is the main barrier in society that leads survivors to blame themselves. How can you heal if you are struggling with blaming yourself?" she said.

Repeat Occurrences and Humiliation
Research indicates that IPR victims are more likely to be raped multiple times compared with Stranger and Acquaintance Rape victims (Mahoney). Most victims report being raped more than once. At least 1/3 report being raped more than twenty times over the course of their relationship (Mahoney). Among battered women, sexual assault may be a routine part of the pattern of the abuse. As noted by one researcher “Women who are raped and battered by their partners experience ... violence in various ways ... some are battered during [a violent episode or] ... rape may follow a physically violent episode where the husband ... in order to make up forces his wife to have sex against her will ("Marital Rape").” In addition to the frequency that the victim must endure, the domination may be especially extreme. The married perpetrator is more likely to use “anal and oral rape to humiliate, punish and take ‘full’ ownership of their partners,” say researchers ("Marital Rape").

Financial Dependency
Even when a victim does want to leave the abuse, they find themselves trapped. Victims often do not have financial resources to leave a relationship and are often dependant financially on the perpetrator to support themselves and their children ("Marital Rape"). Complications with moving also occur. The victim must cause the children to miss school, loose valuable connections with friends and family, or even abandon the children (Mahoney). Since IPR victims are also commonly domestic violence victims, they may be experiencing economic and interpersonal isolation. It is not uncommon for domestic violence victims to be unaware of the assistance that is available to them and/or lack basic means to seek help such as a vehicle or a telephone (O'Mara).

Fear Of Physical Harm
The victim may fear that the perpetrator will harm them or someone else if they report the crime or leave. Victims may also fear that the offender will harm the children in their absence (Mahoney). According to a survey reported by DHHS, seventeen percent of women who were victims of rape or attempted rape did not report it because they feared reprisals from the perpetrator ("Domestic Violence Fact Sheet").

Before 1993 Intimate Partner Rape was not officially legal in the United States. Common stereotypes and myths were not only believed, but they were enforced and used to interpret law. Although America has illegalized Marital Rape, many states have not created legal protections strong enough to recognize the validity of the crime. The current attitudes are not only unethical and unfair, they are causing victims to remain being victimized and criminals to go unpunished. Even when legal protection is offered, victims often have to overcome additional legal hurdles not present for other victims of rape. These include time limits for reporting an offense, a requirement that force or threat of force be used by the offender, and the fact that some sexual assault offenses still preclude spousal victims. More needs to be done to make intimate partner rape illegal by changing current attitudes and stereotypes about women in America and reflecting this change in our laws and the interpretation of them

Works Cited
Anderson, Linda. Personal interview. 15, April 2010.

Bauman, Lisa. "Survey on Sex Attitudes." 15, April, 2010.

"Domestic Violence Fact Sheet" 18, April, 2010. At Health, Inc. At Health, Inc. Web. 29 Dec., 2009.

"Domestic Violence Statistics" An Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection., 30, Oct. 2006. Web. 25, Feb. 2010.

Mahoney, Patricia "The Wife Rape Fact Sheet" National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center. National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center. 15 April, 2010 Web.

"Marital Rape." Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. RAINN. 15 April, 2010 Web.

O'Mara, Nancy. Personal interview. 25, Feb. 2010.

"Spousal Rape Laws: 20 Years Later" National Center for Victims of Crime. National Center for Victims of Crime. 8 April, 2010 Web.

Stritof, Sheri and Stritof, Bob "Is Marital Rape a Crime?" 8 April, 2010. Web.

"The Truth About Rape and Relationships" Marion County Oregon. Marion County Oregon. 8 April, 2010 Web. 22 May, 2007

*** A Research Report for WR 123 Research Writing Class: Instructor Linda Spain, Linn-Benton Community College, Spring 2010

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